A journey through a post apocalyptic world with a space wizard, a war fighting monk and a badly written princess.
[x] The Lost Art by Simon Morden [David Fickling Books]
“A MILLENNIUM AFTER the formidable war machines of the User cultures devoured entire civilizations and rewrote planetary geography, Earth is in the grip of a perpetual Dark Age. Scientific endeavor is strongly discouraged, while remnant technology is locked away—hidden by a Church determined to prevent a new Armageddon.
This is the world to which Benzamir Michael Mahmood must return. A descendant of the tribes who fled the planet during those ages old wars, he comes in pursuit of enemies from the far reaches of space. The technology he brings is wondrous beyond the imaginings of those he will meet, but can its potency match that of the Church’s most closely guarded treasure?
For centuries it has lain dormant, but it is about to be unearthed, and the powers that will be unleashed may be beyond anyone’s capacity to control. Even a man as extraordinary as Benzamir…” -Goodreads
Yes this book is as ridiculous as it sounds. The Lost Art is a genre crossing, speculative fiction story set in a future where the world has been turned upside down and technology has been wiped out. So far, pretty normal right? It’s probably not the first time you’ve heard an intro like that – but I can promise you from this point in things get, well a little strange. The story follows two perspectives; one, a former warlord turned Russian monk called Va who is on a mission to find something that was stolen from the Russian Orthodox church and has a beautiful Princess in tow (we’ll get to how problematic this is later); and, secondly Benzamir a mysterious stranger for far away lands (space… Of course.) who has magical powers (so a space wizard then) and talking spaceship (what self respecting space wizard doesn’t have one of them) as well as a actual flying carpet (honestly I’m not lying) – who is looking for the people who have robbed Va. This book goes through three different genre changes as well – sci-fi, dystopian and fantasy, which I don’t necessarily have problem with but when reading I got the feeling Morden couldn’t really decide what he wanted this book to be.
For me this book contained more bad parts then good, that’s not to say that there weren’t moments of excitement, but they weren’t frequent or well executed enough to make up for the bad. I took my months to work my way through this book – it was a struggle.
There are a few problems I have with this book, one of which is the pacing. The Lost Art is not a particularly long book, it should not have taken me months to read. Many times I found myself having to convince myself to even pick this book up. At the time I was confused but looking back on it now there was a clear issue with the plot and the pacing. This is a slow book, and for the first 450-475 pages nothing much really happens except travelling. A lot of the ‘action’ in this book, including the inciting incident, takes before the book actually starts – and then very little happens until the last 50 pages of the book. Of course things to happen in this book, there’s a lot of travelling and meeting new people, and maybe this would be more interesting if it was done for world building or this book was part of a series, and this book was the opening to a much grander adventure. But this was not the case, for me there was not enough world building or plot to warrant 522 pages of novel (even in a fairly large print). There was a huge lull in the middle of this book that took me months to navigate my way through, and for me there’s really no recovery for a book like that no matter how exciting the ending.
Said ending for me was one of the highlights of this novel. I won’t spoil anything but the last 50 pages introduced some of the best characters and to be honest contained most of the plot. The last 50 pages triggered the third genre change, and to be honest I think was the genre that Morden really wanted to write. The other two genres felt very flat, there were points where they hinted at really parts of the world, or past events but they never explored them.
Another strong point of this book was the setting and the world – unfortunately, for me Morden’s explanation of this world fell short. I found myself screaming at the book whenever a character mentioned parts of the world, like the great war that happened or roads that trail off into the ocean leading to drowned cities – TELL ME MORE!! Some of those ideas deserved books of their own, but instead were just given a passing reference. The world building in this world was so frustrating, the parts Morden revealed were so interesting but sadly he didn’t reveal anywhere near enough to make the world believable or satisfying.
Now lets have a little talk about one of the biggest things this book did to annoy me – prepare yourself we’re about to get into the issue of female characters. This is something both Elly and I are very passionate about, and we will probably use this blog to rant about them endlessly. There were two ‘main’ female characters in this book who main purpose appeared to be obsessing over the main character and competing for his affection. As if this wasn’t bad enough, one of the characters main features was solely her beauty – in fairness to Morden, this is appears to be an attempt at mocking this kind of treatment, but it is so ingrained in the novel, even the ‘moral’ characters treat her this way, that if anything it becomes problematic. Overall the female characters were bland and flawed – disappointing all round. [Side note: there are also some bizarre comments about the space wizard society being more civilised than both African and Islam society, I’m not quite certain how these made it past the editing stage to be honest. They could be very easily taken as offensive.]
Overall, this book is a 4.5/10 for me – it shows hints of glimmering promise but it focuses on all the wrong (and boring) parts of the story, as well as being difficult to read.
If anyone else has read this book I’d been really interested to hear your opinion on it (leave us a comment)!